“Hola, welcome to Casa Batlló,” the cute doorman at the entrance of the building said to me after gauging whether to speak in Catalan, Spanish or English. I shot a smile back at him after I took one last quick look at the weird and wonderful facade, and then proceeded to walk through the door while happily exclaiming “Hola.” “I’m here,” I thought to myself rather smugly after realising I was the third person to enter as the doors opened at 9am.
I Love Gaudí!
Casa Batlló is one of Gaudì’s masterpieces, which was commissioned to him by Josep Batlló and built between 1904 and 1906; the building was to be used by Batlló and his family as residences. It is located in the middle of Passeig de Gràcia, the avenue where most prestigious bourgeois families were settling at the time, and the original building, which was sombre and plain, was transformed by Gaudì into the fantastical structure that it is today.
Gaudì was inspired by nature and the Mediterranean sea, shown in the undulating shapes and shades of blue that you’ll find throughout. The exterior, as you can see above, is just weirdly brilliant. You can interpret the different shapes in many ways – for example, the balconies can be seen as skull eye sockets or masquerade masks.
I decided that while in Barcelona I was going to check out as many of Gaudí’s buildings as I could, and I made Casa Batllò a priority. I even booked a guesthouse that was a five minute walk away to ensure that I could be one of the first people to arrive, which worked out brilliantly well.
Anyway, back to the experience. I was handed the rather funky video guide that comes included in the price of the ticket. This is no ordinary video guide; with the help of augmented and virtual reality, it enables you to see how each room would have looked back when the Batlló family lived in it. The animations bring the whole thing to life, and the videos are available in ten languages including Spanish, French, English, Italian, Japanese and Chinese.
The 7:30am wake-up call, I quickly realised, was definitely worth it. As I was one of the first to enter, I had each room I went through to myself, enabling me to take tourist-free photos and really soak up the atmosphere without kids running around screaming and ruining the experience for me (note: avoid Barcelona in August if you can. School holidays. Enough said).
It really is a spectacular building. Each room gave me goosebumps; the main suite, for example, consists of three interconnected rooms and the huge windows allude to a shop window display that looks out onto the bustling Passeig de Gràcia. Gaudí created a wavy ceiling, in allusion to the sea; the whirlpool effect that you’ll see in one of the following photos is part of this.
As I made my way around the building, I was struck by all the details. I mean, just look at the following doorway. It looks like the entrance to some enchanted and weirdly wonderful world, doesn’t it? Or is that just me?
My favourite part, however, was the roof terrace. I didn’t really know what to expect from my visit, so I had no idea that one of the highlights was this beautiful space at the top of the building. After a long walk up the stairs throughout which I was cursing myself for not being fitter, I walked outside (while panting like a smoker who’s had to run 20 metres) and yelped from excitement – it’s that beautifully weird! It is dominated by a detail known as ‘the dragon’s back,’ which represents an animal’s spine and is coloured using the ‘trencadís‘ mosaic technique.
The roof also features four chimney stacks that are all polychromatic and stylised, as well as stunning views over the city. THIS is the place to take some phenomenal photos if that’s your thing.
Here are just a few of mine:
I stayed on the terrace for a good half an hour admiring the views and taking photos. I finally managed to drag myself away from it, made my way down a level and came to the ultimate tourist trap – the ‘photo opportunity.’ You know, where there’s a camera set up at some memorable location within the place you’re visiting, and you’re implored to have a photo taken in order to take your beautiful memories home with you. Usually I scoff at these, but seeing as I was in a rather jolly mood, I decided that I wanted to pay a ridiculous amount to have my photo taken (€11 for those who are interested). And here’s the result (note: you can see just how tired I was from my eyes! The price clearly doesn’t include Photoshop work):
I wrote about visiting La Sagrada Familia last week and at the time I felt that that was my favourite place in Barcelona. I was wrong; I had an even better time at Casa Batlló. I really enjoyed using the video guide (it’s really informative and talks your through Gaudí’s inspiration and creative process), and getting there early meant that I could enjoy most of the spaces uninterrupted. And the building itself is just so brilliantly weird that if you’re anything like me, you’ll walk around pretending you’re in some warped fairytale. I spent the whole time thinking to myself “This is bloody damn awesome.” I think that alone would define the visit as a great success!
- Prebook online here to avoid having to queue. I recommend getting there for 8:50am so that you’re among the first people to enter the building and you can enjoy the rooms in relative peace (this also means you don’t need to pay an extra €5 for fast entry tickets).
- Tickets cost €21.50 for adults.
- Nearest Metro station to the house is Passeig de Gràcia.
- Save some money for the gift store – there are so many lovely things in there, including beautiful coffee table books on Gaudí and his works.
- If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Barcelona I wholeheartedly recommend Casa Consell, which is a mere five minute walk from Casa Batlló. It has the most beautiful terrace and communal area, which is handy if you’re travelling solo and looking to meet some fellow travellers. Breakfast is basic but good, and the location is perfect. They have some cheap rooms for solo travellers like myself.